Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101)

Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101) explore how the liberal arts inform good leadership. They engage every first-year student in the exploration of an interesting topic while providing the intellectual orientation and skills foundational to college learning and effective leadership. All LDR 101 seminars, regardless of topic, share specific learning goals based on the faculty's conviction that all good leaders work well with others, think analytically and communicate effectively. For these reasons, all LDR 101 seminars place special emphasis on five fundamental intellectual and leadership skills: critical thinking, writing, public speaking, digital literacy and teamwork.

Each seminar is designed to help you do the following, both singly and as a member of a team:

  • Summarize and explain the main ideas of a text, speech, doctrine, principle or belief.
  • Identify and analyze significant issues, problems and questions and evaluate or develop effective responses.
  • Articulate, compare and judge the strengths and weaknesses of two or more competing arguments about an issue, problem or question, supporting your comparative judgment with appropriate evidence.
  • Develop, focus and organize ideas concerning a central topic, and create, revise and present these ideas in written, spoken, visual and digital forms using appropriate sources.
  • Articulate how working toward the outcomes above has informed your understanding of leadership and your capacity to lead.

Foundational Skills Seminars (LDR 101) are:

  • Four-credit hour, academic courses
  • Required of and limited to first-year students (transfer and nontraditional students with sophomore classification are exempt)
  • Offered fall semester only
  • Led by professors who have selected and researched the special topics for these courses
  • Often interdisciplinary, so that students may explore topics from more than one perspective

LDR 101 Courses, Fall 2016

Measuring Happiness (Hal Thorsrud) ** Changed from Leadership in Plato’s Republic
There seems to be a real difference between people who are happy and people who are not. If so, it should be possible to measure happiness. In fact psychologists and economists have produced a large number of such studies over the past 30 years. Much of this research is guided by the admirable goal of developing individual interventions as well as political and economic policies that will improve our quality of life. But this emerging science of positive psychology has produced many incompatible results, raising questions about what exactly is being measuring. In this course, we will begin by examining the most influential philosophical accounts of the nature of happiness. Then we will consider a recent attempt to unify positive psychology with philosophy and apply this theory to make sense of some of the empirical research. Our approach will be framed by the assumption that good leaders promote the flourishing and happiness of themselves and their communities.

Leadership and Gender in the Young Adult Fantasy Novel (Bobby Meyer-Lee)
The most successful young adult fantasy novels enchant us with both the inventiveness of their alternative worlds and the compelling emotional and social realism of their characters, especially the protagonists: the girls and boys and young women and men who, enduring great trials, become the great leaders in a community’s efforts to overcome some sort of evil. However fantastic their settings and plots, the novels want us to experience these young leaders as real people facing an evil that we are often meant to recognize as also present in some form in our own world, and so the novels are careful to fashion the psychologies and social interactions of these characters in a way that conforms closely to real-world expectations. For this reason, whether consciously or not, these novels often reinforce gender norms, especially as those norms pertain to the kinds of leadership that the characters exemplify. Yet some of the novels seek to challenge these norms and to encourage their readers, on the model of their young protagonists, to resist social expectations that are oppressive in some way, perhaps indeed part of the very evil that must be overcome.

In this section of LDR-101, we will evaluate critically the representation of leadership and gender in several young adult fantasy novels, ones written by both women and men, and featuring both female and male protagonists. Specifically, we will examine closely the ways in which these novels construct positive and negative models of leadership and of gender and the ways in which they relate these models to each other. We will assess how much these models do and do not conform to existing norms and how successful they may be at challenging those norms. Examples of possible readings include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Harry Potter and the Sorcerers’ Stone; The Hunger Games; Graceling; The Golem’s Eye; and The Golden Compass. The course will also consider some of the cinematic adaptions of young adult fantasy novels.

Women Leading Social Change: Case Studies from American History (Mary Cain)
Though the emergence of women leaders in political and corporate sectors is a relatively modern phenomenon in United States history, women have long held important roles in movements for social change. This course will examine the lives, work and values of several prominent—and some less prominent—American women whose contributions served to shape the social conditions of their times. Main topics will include: women’s efforts in the American Revolution; women as labor organizers; women in abolition; the women’s suffrage movement; women radicals; women in the Civil Rights movement; women in the movement for Native American rights; feminism; and the 2016 Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. As we consider these topics, we will also maintain an on-going class discussion about what constitutes leadership, who makes a good leader and whether there are distinctively female forms of effective leadership.

How Do I Look?: Project Womanhouse, Feminist Leadership, and Identity Politics (Katherine Smith)
The first part of this title implies both objectification and agency to suggest the complexand sometimes contradictorypositions that female figures, in general, and women artists, specifically, occupy in the history of art. This seminar focuses Womanhouse, a project in the Feminist Art Program at Cal Arts in the early 1970s, which sought to change representation of and by women as it introduced a new pedagogical approach and aspirational goals: its co-leaders were training college women to become professional artists. We will consider how Womanhouse reflects its historical context and nonetheless provides enduring lessons about identity formation and feminist leadership. We will also study works in Agnes Scott College’s permanent collection to see how later artists, in the 1980s and 1990s, extended identity politics to disparate artistic practices to represent various ethnic, gender and sexual identities. This seminar, more generally, considers how we negotiate, communicate and create identity in visual terms. Throughout the course, we will examine our practices of looking as we analyze the ways that contemporary artists use images for personal expression and cultural resistance, considering both how we can read their images and how we can (and do) construct our own.

Gender and Music (Jason Solomon)
Are musical styles gendered? Consider rock music, a male-dominated practice since its inception. Is the masculinity of rock exclusively a sociocultural phenomenon or can it be attributed in part to how the music sounds? Do musical qualities activate gender stereotypes—causing a particular style or song to be perceived as either feminine or masculine? Following an orientation around gender studies, this course examines gender through the lens of musical practice, with a particular focus on rock music and its assumed maleness. Students read articles by musicologists and social critics; they also write and present on the reception and impact of women musicians. In an effort to identify a link between the sounds of a given style and any gender associated with it, students learn to analyze and describe the various musical elements that distinguish one musical style from another.

Doing Good (Lara Denis)
The focus of this course is altruism—extreme, effective and otherwise. We will consider the nature of morality, how much we ought to do to help others and how best to do good in the world. The main texts of the course include Lisa MacFarquhar's Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choice and the Overpowering Urge to Help and Peter Singer's The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.

Media, Communication and the Shape of Our World (James Stamant)
After Johannes Gutenberg “invented” printing with moveable type in the fifteenth century, it became much easier to disseminate information to large groups of people. Yet, the question remains: how is communication affected by the medium that exists between the speaker and the audience? Was Marshall McLuhan right when he wrote that “the medium is the message”? In this class we will consider how media has attempted to facilitate communication, transmit information and tell stories, from Gutenberg to the present. We will examine old media and new media alike, including contemporary modes such as digital media, social media and celebrity media. What changes when physical newspapers lose readers to digital news outlets like BuzzFeed? How does an understanding of, and ability to manipulate, media help leaders to lead? We will interrogate this topic from different angles and by looking at various kinds of texts to create a discussion about the importance of media in the past, our present moment and the future. Possible texts include Super Sad True Love Story, Network, The Circle, The Player’s Tribune and TMZ, as well as others.

International Atlanta (James Diedrick)
Atlanta—the city and the metropolitan area—is home to the faculty and staff of Agnes Scott College. It is also a new home away from home for our new incoming students, including those of you who will be taking this seminar. Intimately bound up in America’s history, and increasingly important as an international city, Atlanta is home to citizens from all parts of the world and a place where we can explore and become more sensitive to issues of difference in relation to nationality, religion, class, race and gender. This course will explore the complex history, dynamic present and leadership opportunities in the city some call “The Center of the New South,” inviting each member of the seminar (including the professor) to become course experts on some aspect of Atlanta, past or present. This focus will provide a framework for improving each student’s foundational skills for success in college and, by extension, her leadership skills.

Choices: A Study of Economics and Leaders from Film and Television Narratives (David M. Williams)
Economics is about the choices that people, firms, nonprofits and governments make in the real world. Business management also examines the leaders who make decisions in an attempt to improve the performance of their organizations. Through the lens of the disciplines of economics and business management, students in this course will study various types of leadersappointed, elected, selected, servant and unit (collaborative team)when faced with a number of different economic challenges as portrayed in the narratives of film and television. As an example, class members will view the film Norma Rae and then discuss and complete a project dealing with the labor and management conflicts as portrayed in the film, as well as the challenges faced by a small town Southern woman.

The Coca-Colonization of Europe: Debating American Culture from the Jazz Age to the Cold War (Kristian Blaich)
Since the early twentieth century, Europeans have been fascinated by American culture and ideas of modernity. Drawing primarily on the history of Germany, France and Italy (but also incorporating examples from other European nations), this seminar will examine the causes and effects of Europeans’ appropriation of American institutions and cultural forms, as well as some of the leadership styles evident during key moments. Particular attention will be paid to the reception of American popular culture, the experience of World War II, US foreign policy and the exportation of capitalism and commercialism—a phenomenon that is sometimes called “Coca-colonization” after the iconic American soft drink. We will discover that “Coca-colonization” was not just a process by which Europeans simply accepted American ideas and institutions; rather, we will see how Europeans appropriated, transformed and—in some cases—resisted these concepts, resulting in intense debate about national, racial, gender and generational identities. Discussion will be fueled by a wide variety of sources, including expressions of popular culture in music, advertising and film.

Vietnamistan: Fighting Communism and Terrorism At Home and Abroad (Cathy Scott)
Scholars, soldiers, pundits and politicians alike claim that September 11, 2001, was the day that changed everything for global politics. But is this really the case? In this seminar, we will comb through the political record of the 20th and 21st centuries to find commonalities and differences between the Cold War era and the war on terror. Our aim is to gain a deeper understanding of, and much-needed perspective on, the origins and ideologies that governed these wars, as well as their goals, tactics and consequences. And finally, we will try to assess the way presidential leadership was exercised and whether in fact a leadership lens is the best way to understand U.S. politics and foreign policy.

Exploring the Leadership of Women of Color Environmental Justice Activists: From the Local to Global Levels (Na’Taki Osborne Jelks)
According to environmental sociologist Dorceta E. Taylor, the intersection of race, class and gender have had profound impacts on people’s environmental experiences and have subsequently influenced the political development, ideologies and activism of grassroots environmental leaders. The environmental justice movement supports women of color in their roles as community leaders who protect home and family. Because women, globally, have primary responsibility for raising families, concerns related to housing, sanitation, food access and health are paramount. Women of color carry the weight and bear the loads in grassroots environmental struggles to live free of toxic wastes, pollution and environmental and health inequities. This course with examine the lives and leadership of women working for environmental justice from the local to the global levels. The manner in which these women frame their struggles in the context of racial, class and gender politics will be examined along with their leadership strategies and propensity to resist and challenge power relations and structural inequalities that perpetrate health, environmental and economic disparities.

Suffrage, Art and Labor: Women Leading Change in Greenwich Village 1913 (Kerry Pannell)
In the early 20th century, courageous women in New York City were at the forefront of economic, political and social change. In this course, students will study the history of the labor and suffrage movements and will take on the roles of important characters in the struggle for women's voting and labor rights. The course is framed around an immersive pedagogical game set in 1913 Greenwich Village, before women won the right to vote and while the efforts to recognize labor were beginning. Students will engage foundational literature whilst debating how best to advance the role of women in 20th century American society. The game will spill over from the classroom to the campus and students should be willing to fully engage their roles as motivators of change.

Introduction to Mindfulness (Beth Hackett)
To be mindful is to be fully and non-judgmentally present - present to oneself, to other people, to one’s surroundings and to what one is doing. Contemporary scientific research is confirming what practitioners of mindfulness have claimed for millennia: cultivating mindfulness helps people to focus, know themselves more fully, unleash creativity and be more empathetic. This class is an interdisciplinary introduction to mindfulness theory and practice, with particular emphasis on the relevance of mindfulness to leadership. In whatever context one leads - e.g., as a participant in a class or study group, an officer in a student organization, a family member, an employee, etc. - and most importantly, when leading one’s life – cultivating mindfulness enhances one’s ability to make intentional, and therefore more creative, thoughtful and compassionate decisions. The course will integrate an academic exploration of mindfulness (including study of the historical roots of mindfulness in various religious traditions (e.g., meditation in Buddhism and mysticism in Catholicism); present-day secular manifestations of mindfulness practice (e.g., mindfulness-based stress reduction and yoga); and the biological effects of meditation) with an experiential exploration of a variety of practices designed to cultivate mindfulness, such as focused breathing, body scan, walking meditation and close listening.